It’s a Boy! It’s a Girl! Unintended Effects of Finding Out A Baby’s Gender

Rookie of The Year!

Rookie of The Year!

I was struck by a family member’s baby shower last year.   The cake was styled as a football field.   The decorations all said MVP and the Dad’s favorite college football team’s logo was all over everything.   I wasn’t there, but from the many Facebook photos there were very few ducks or puppies and no Winnie the Poo, no green or yellows.  It was all blue, and the college’s colors.    They were not celebrating an impending birth and giving presents to help a woman take on the responsibility of being a mother.   They were celebrating a BOY!!!!!!

I would imagine that if the child had been a girl, there would be a lot of Princess, Diva motifs, everything would be pink and tulle.

In the olden days people didn’t know whether their baby was a boy or a girl.  Parents had nine full months to fall in love with their baby, with dreaming of becoming a parent, with anticipating the baby’s face, and fantasizing about whether the baby would cure cancer or be a famous movie star or the next Einstein or just a good person.  A mom had much more time to dream of how much she will love this genderless baby growing inside her, and hope to God the baby is healthy, regardless of gender.   In other words, before there was the ability and expectation of knowing the child’s gender,  there was a longer period of falling in love with the idea of a baby —  not a boy, not a girl, and all that that implies.

But now, since people learn the gender in utero, and make the announcement to everyone as soon as they find out, it’s all about baseball diamonds, football fields and MVPs for the boys, and tiaras, princesses, divas and images of shoes for the girls — from before birth. Even though the babies won’t throw a football or wear a tiara for years,  that is what they will see, and this is what their parents will see, and purchase.  Since people find out the gender in the fourth or fifth month, which is usually when the mother starts to feel real movement in her womb and the child becomes a reality rather than just a pregnancy, the gender is known.  In other words, there is no time where the mother feels the life inside her without knowing the gender (and accepting the fantasy gender roles).      The early programming begins just as the mother feels her boy or girl kick — and it’s much more than the pink or blue.    And sadly, it usually does not include anything academic, musical, or nature oriented.   I think somewhere along the line many people stopped dreaming that their “baby-bump” would be a brain surgeon.  Instead, the unborn girl will be a heart-breaker with great shoes and the unborn boy will be an athlete.  The prenatal dreaming has shifted from who the child will look like and what he or she might be when he or she grows up to how we can dress and decorate for a girl or how to dress or decorate for a boy.  And the companies who make so much money from the gender specific newborn items are loving it.   I’m not saying that parents really expect and will only love their kid if he becomes MVP and she becomes a raving beauty.  It just seems that the parents of unborn children have  bought into the imagery, and bought the stuff.

It’s quite normal for parents to want to pass on their interests and dream a little through their children.  But when the emphasis is on gender, so early, it actually thwarts some of those dreams.   Little baby girls aren’t getting their dad’s favorite team’s jersey on the wall, because everyone knows it’s going to be a girl, and so you’ve got to the princess thing.  And people are less likely to give a newborn son of an artist a onesie that has musical notes or a paintbrush on it and instead opt for the Team MVP logo.  In fact, it’s difficult to find any gender neutral newborn wear.  No one needs it anymore, because everyone knows what the child will be.

And it doesn’t seem to occur to anyone that you don’t have to have every item that touches or is within view of your child scream the kid’s gender.

And I’m sorry, although your daughter may be royalty to you, unless you are a Queen, your daughter is not a Princess, and though your son looks strong, he cannot be MVP if he cannot yet play anything.   And maybe, just maybe, he wants to play the (gasp) violin and maybe your daughter fantasizes about going to the moon rather than the mall.  Or maybe, they baby just wants to be held and fed and talked to.

I was a very weird mom-to-be.  I refused to find out the gender.   My doctors knew, but I swore them to secrecy.  Frankly, I thought I was having a girl and I was afraid that if people knew I having a girl there would be a pink explosion, with Disney princesses and tutus and Diva signs and simply an emphasis on the attainment of traditional feminine beauty.  I didn’t want my baby to be treated like a doll to be dressed up.  Having had a miscarriage in the past, all I wanted was a healthy, full-term baby.   By the way, I had a boy.   The room had already been decorated with a gender neutral motif.   We did get some of the sports teams outfits for him, but my baby shower gifts were all gender neutral.  I had girls later and they wore some of their brother’s clothes.  For me, it did not make it harder not to know the gender ahead of time,  though I suppose these days it would be much harder since it is very difficult to find a motif that is not gender specific.  I think the only issue is the name, but for me, it was kind of fun to consider both boys and girls names.

I also wonder, especially in the case where the parents are unmarried or otherwise not completely committed, whether finding out the gender early can hurt the bonding process.  There are those parents who only want a certain gender.  When a half-committed hyper-masculine dad finds out that his girlfriend is having a girl, his mind and his foot might be out the door.  This boy would not be his Junior.   Would it be different if he found out the gender at the moment when he saw his child being born?  Maybe.  Maybe, I would hope, he’d be caught up in the miracle of it all and the gender would be less important.  I don’t know, but I wonder.    And I wonder whether an immature mother-to-be who finds out she’s having a girl and is bombarded with images of the fun she will have dressing up her baby would be better served by not knowing the gender and instead go through a pregnancy with thoughts of how to care for her child, instead of the fun of dressing her.

I’ve had children of both genders.   From my experience, the care of a newborn is the same (except for the occasional stream of urine that boys can produce).  It’s the “caring” that babies need, not the decor and not the clothes.

It makes me sad sometimes that babies can’t just be babies anymore.

But I’m weird that way.

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Music: The Black Kids and the Girls Quit — Uh, no.

Spaulding, Grammy Winner for Best New Artist 2011.  Her mother must be so proud.

Esperanza Spaulding, Grammy Winner for Best New Artist 2011. Her mother must be so proud.

My daughters are mad at me.  Well, at any given time at least one of my children is always mad at me.  It’s basic statistics — and being a parent of teens.   But they are just going to have to be angry.

I won’t let them quit Orchestra.



Please don’t report me to the authorities, according to their reaction clearly I must be committing some sort of child abuse.

Here it is.  The girls have been playing their instruments since third grade.   I have sat through Elementary and  Middle School Concerts but now that they are in high school they want to quit.


Now, I may not make them continue all through high school.   I just want them to give high school playing a chance.  Their school is firmly committed to the arts, and a high school concert sounds almost professional.  We all know the value of musical study on academics and frankly, it looks good on a kid’s record for college admission, etc.   Socially, it helps as well, keeping the kids busy and out of trouble and it’s where the high achieving kids hang out.

But I confess I have another reason.    Having sat through the elementary school concerts and on up to the high school. I’ve noticed that as the kids age, the girls and the black kids disappear.

Yes, there are many girls in Orchestra and Symphonic Band, but  I think only a small handful of girls of any color in Jazz Band and maybe only two black girls in Orchestra. There have been years where there are no black kids at all (girls or boys)  in the Jazz Band.

Let that sink in:  No black kids in the high school  Jazz Band.   That makes me kind of blue.  (I know, slap me.)

Miles Davis'  Kind of Blue

Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue

Musical Black boys, in particular,  are unicorns.    I have a unicorn.  My son  is the only black boy in each of the vocal ensembles. I think he’s the only black boy in the Orchestra.   By the way, I’m specifically saying black rather than student of color, because the Asian kids are adequately represented, though less so in Jazz Band.

Having taught music privately for years I’m aware of the natural attrition  as children hit middle school.  As kids get older they have to let some things  go and specialize in others.   They might quit their string instrument and concentrate on brass.  They might discover theater or the visual arts and move their time and attention there.   Plus, some kids and their parents acknowledge that they have no musical talent (I’m resisting saying that they suck, because that would be crass) and they decide to discontinue.  In high school, sports become more demanding and time-consuming, and sometimes kids have to make a choice, if for no other reason than time management.   I will say, though, that at my kids’ school they do not have to choose music or sports.  It is one of the very few schools whose curriculum not only allows, but encourages kids to be in music ensembles and play a sport. It’s built into the schedule. The school even has football players who play in the Marching Band at half-time.  Consequently,  playing sports is not necessarily an excuse to quit music, but it happens.  Still, a very high number of kids stay.  Even as enrollment in the school as declined, a music teacher just announced, the number of children in the ensembles in high school has either remained the same or increased!

Just not for everybody.

I’ve seen first hand, and I’m vaguely aware that there are studies to back this up, that girls and black kids quit activities starting at puberty at higher rates than their white, male counter-parts.  I’m focusing on the quitting, rather that the kids who have never had the opportunity to start.   These kids are there in elementary school, for the most part, but then something happens and they disappear.  Poof!  And again, this is not an under-funded school with a dwindling or non-existent arts program.  It’s quite the opposite.    Yet, still, certain kids are obviously, visually absent at the high school level.

I can’t stand it.    Plus, it feeds into the popular rhetoric that “Black people don’t do [insert whatever]”  and boys play instruments while girls only sing.

The Voice

The Voice: The black guy (Usher)and the woman (Shakira) play no instruments, except, of course, for The Voice. It was the same this year with Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green.

No can do, not in my house.

At least for the first year, my daughters will stick with it, because,

“Just because you get boobs and mascara doesn’t mean you put your instruments down.”  

It’s for me, for them, and for their grandparents –who have sat through the elementary school concerts and have looked forward to seeing their youngest grandchildren playing in the exceptionally good high school orchestra.  It’s for the administration and other students, both younger and older,  who need to see that not all of the black kids quit, who need to see what black kids — girls, can do.

It wasn’t all that long ago that girls weren’t even allowed to learn to play band instruments other than flute or clarinet, that girls playing saxophone or percussion was not only frowned upon but actually prohibited, and a girl playing double bass was just weird, and a little wrong.   I  have a friend who got a saxophone on her fortieth birthday.  She cried when she saw it, saying that when she was a little girl the school wouldn’t let her play sax. Now she finally has one.

Candy Duffer.  Better known as Prince's sax player.

Candy Duffer. Better known as Prince’s sax player.

Is it an added burden  —  that my kids are being required to do something partly to defy the norm or stereotype and to represent their dual minority membership?



They can do this for me, if for no other reason.

Plus, you know . . . music.

The Philadelphia Orchestra Bass Section

The Philadelphia Orchestra Bass Section

By the way, when my unicorn boy was in middle school I paid him twenty dollars to join the chorus.  He fell in love with singing.  Last year he toured Italy with a select vocal ensemble and now he’s applying to colleges with a record that includes extra-curricular activities in both sports and music.

Best twenty bucks I spent.

The girls might be a bit more expensive, though.  Typical.


Ugh.  Or should I say, Uggs?

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Marketing of Women In Movies, Not Quite Pitch Perfect

Beca, the Lead Character in Pitch Perfect

Beca, the Lead Character in Pitch Perfect

This is kind of a ramble, and a bit of a rant.  You’ve been warned.

I really like the movie Pitch Perfect.  Go ahead and judge if you must, but it is hilarious, witty and has a message.  I saw it on DVD long after it was released.  I don’t really remember hearing much about it when it was in the theatres, but based on what I did see in the advertisements, I assumed it was another mindless teen/young adult movie where the stars of the film are boobs and booze.   I also remember vaguely wondering if the movie was appropriate for young teens.

Well, my teen children saw it without me, loved it, and asked for it for Christmas. Someone gave it to them and that’s when I watched it.  I had no choice, really.

I loved it.

I was pleasantly surprised.   The college women in the movie were not dumb and they were not chasing boys.    They were The Barton Bellas, an all female a cappella group whose goal  was to beat the heavily favored and reigning champion men in a national a cappella competition.   The women actually took an oath not to hook up with the male competition.

The main character is Beca, an “alt-girl” who really wants to be a D.J.   She writes beats and mixes on her Mac and volunteers at the student radio station, hoping to get air play.   In other words, her dream is to  succeed in a tech, heavily male dominated, industry.

Pitch Perfect:  Students talking music and movies at college.

Pitch Perfect: Students talking music and movies at college.

There is also a sub-plot about a male character whose dream is to score movies.  He introduces Beca to the power of the perfect soundtrack.

The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club

If you haven’t seen the movie, and assumed that it has to be garbage, or the dreaded “chic flick”  (don’t get me started)  I suggest a reason why.

Here is the movie poster for Pitch Perfect:

Pitch Perfect

Pitch Perfect

Nowhere in the movie do the women appear like this.   For much of the movie they look like “Flight attendants,” which was their traditional performance costume. 

The Barton Bellas in Pitch Perfect

The Barton Bellas in Pitch Perfect

When they shed their traditional costumes and express their individuality, they perform like this:

Bellas, after they decided to shake it up and try something new.

Bellas, after they decided to shake it up and try something new.

For much of the film, the characters are in street clothes and look like this:

Barton Bellas in the Sing-Off

Barton Bellas in the Sing-Off

Take a look again at the movie poster.

Pitch Perfect

Pitch Perfect

The hot blonde in the middle with the Victoria’s Secret arched back, mini-skirt, heels, and pout, is Aubrey, the character that has no love interest whatsoever in the whole movie.   When we first see her, she looks like this:

Aubrey, looking for auditioners

Aubrey, looking for auditioners

And she has an unfortunate scene when she looks like this:


Ew. So not sexy.

But she never looks or stands anything like how she’s portrayed in the movie poster.

Perhaps she should call her chiropractor.

There is one over-sexed character.  Stacie is the source of much comedy, though she never has any sex on-screen.  This is how she first appears:



And when she admits that she has “a lot of sex,”  she looks like this:

Stacie's Confession

Stacie’s Confession

I would love to watch Pitch Perfect again just to research this post but I’m going to work from memory.   Back to the movie poster.  All the women are wearing sunglasses.   Let me think, I only recall the Bellas performing outside in the daytime once and they did so in their conservative flight attendant-like uniforms.   They did not wear sunglasses. What’s up with the sunglasses in the poster?  Is it just to remove the eyes — the windows to the soul — of the women, so that the focus is on their bodies as a group rather than their individual personalities?   Or maybe it just looked cool.  Why?

And the hair?  For most of the movie the women have their hair at least partially pulled back.  The flowing tresses depicted in the movie poster don’t really happen, not like in the poster.

Why were the Barton Bellas packaged like this for marketing?  Why?   I mean, aca-cuse me?  What’s up with that?  Was it to entice boys and men to watch a movie with female leads?   It is men who make this decision?  If so, do the men have self-hate issues?



I wish someone had looked at this proposed poster, DVD, and soundtrack packaging and said, “Dude, no.” Dude, no

Clearly, Hollywood did not “make good choices.”

(You had to have seen the movie to get those last few quotes.  If you haven’t seen it, this is  kind of aca-awkward.)

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Are Professional Internships the “The New Slavery”?

Roots, the TV miniseries that changed history.

Roots, the TV miniseries that changed history.

Here’s the question, “Are Long-Term Professional  Unpaid Internships the New Slavery”?

The answer is a resounding NO.  NO! NO! NO!  No serious conversation about the ills of long-term, unpaid, professional internships should have any comparison whatsoever to the Transatlantic Slave Trade from Africa to the Americas and Europe or any other type or instance of slavery in our world history.   No. Long term Unpaid Professional Internships do not involve kidnapping, beating, murder, torture, or rape. So, no.  No.


That said, I wonder about these unpaid professional long-term internships.   College graduates are being offered “jobs” at successful profit-making companies.  But the jobs don’t pay, and they can last a year or more.    For some industries many argue such jobs are “required” to get the experience needed to land a job that actually pays for the work done.  I get that.   I just don’t think it’s right.   Because in the meantime these corporations are getting professional work from educated people, people who invested a lot of time and a lot of money to get said education. Though they may lack work experience, they may already  be programmers, statisticians, researchers, and can write and edit copy and present themselves professionally and interact with clients.   They aren’t fetching coffee for a Summer so that they can learn what happens in the big meetings by being a fly on the wall.  Some of the interns are actually creating the materials distributed at the meetings and even running the meetings.

Even college graduate Andrea was getting paid in The Devil Wears Prada

Even college graduate Andrea was getting paid in The Devil Wears Prada

But, they aren’t getting paid.  And this goes on for more than a six-week Summer where the “worker” can gain college credit.  The “worker” has already graduated from college, thank you very much.

How is this okay?

You might think it’s not a problem if the person is willing to do it.    It’s the old — Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free, right?

Okay, but who, exactly, is willing to do it?   I would guess that it is the children of people with means because they are the only people who can afford to work full-time yet not get paid.    Only people who have somewhere to live rent-free, and if they need a car, it’s mom’s or dad’s car, or mom or dad are paying for it.  And these interns can’t have had children. Because you can’t pay for child care with air.

But the college graduate who graduated with a continent of debt, the college graduate who has no parents or working spouse or family who can take them in, the college graduate with a child,  has no choice but to find a job that pays.   Yet when he or she does opt for the paying job in lieu of the unpaid internship, then those juicy professions that require an unpaid internship experience to be present on the resume are simply unattainable.

Frozen out.

It creates a divide — an economic, career limiting divide.

Additionally, for the (usually) young  professionals who can and do take the unpaid positions, it devalues their work.

The argument that they have to learn and are less valuable as newbies is, pardon the expression,  bullshit.

At any job there is a learning curve.  Any job.  And, unless the new worker single-handedly runs the business into the ground on the first day he or she has provided some contribution, some valuable contribution, from day one.

Does the value increase with experience?  Why yes, yes, it does.

Are the skills he or she brings to the workplace utilized?  Why yes, yes, they are.

In my humble opinion post-graduate internships should have an expiration date that is far shorter than a year.  If someone graduates in June, he or she should be paid for the work they are doing by September.    Really, they should get paid from day one.   Think about it, a company would never be able to get away with hiring professional cleaning crew and not pay them while they learn the ins and outs of the building.


And psychologists and economics should be talking about the effects of the fact that people are “staying at home” to work for no money and not buying homes or paying to rent one, furnishing them, and stimulating the economy.

Something isn’t right.  Don’t call it slavery, though.  Please.  Call it unfair.

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Intersection of Race and Gender — In My House

KMart back to school ads.

Kmart back to school ads.

My teen son, an excellent student and high achiever is the oldest and the only boy.  We are black.  (I’ll explain another day why I use black instead of African-American).   The television was on in the background and I made mention of a commercial I’d found mildly annoying.   He responded, stating that the only commercials he really hates are the Kmart back-to-school commercials.   If you are not familiar, the commercials feature rapping black kids in hip-hop style.   There might be one white girl in back of one, I’m not sure — I change the channel whenever they come on.  Now that school is in full swing I hope the commercials go away forever.

I told him I agreed, “I hate those commercials, too!    They are awful!”

“Yeah,” he said,  “I wanted to file a complaint.”

“You should.”   I felt proud that my kid, who usually only talks to me about Zombies or funny things that happened at school,  was exhibiting some sort of interest in social justice.    I felt proud that he noticed and was offended, and was angered by the stereotypical portrayal of his people, particularly with regard to education.  I felt proud that he even considered doing something about it.   It was very unlike him.

Maybe he does have a sense of something larger than himself, I thought.

Hours later, however, he told his sister she couldn’t throw.  His sister is slender, stands almost six feet tall, is a four sport, record holding, medal winning athlete.

“What?  I can throw.  I play softball.”

And yes, yes, she does play softball.  In fact, she plays third base — the hot pocket.  If a batter hits a ball anywhere near her, she will catch it.  She has caught it in the air.  She has caught it on the ground.  She has caught it while falling down, she has caught  it bare handed rolling backward, and she has caught it while in a full split.

In "A League Of Their Own"  Dottie catches a ball in a split.

In “A League Of Their Own” Dottie catches a ball in a split.

But wait, we’re talking about throwing, right?   Okay, once she’s caught the ball, it becomes a bullet shot with precision to her twin sister who guards first base.  The runner doesn’t have a chance when this girl throws the ball  — to my other daughter, who WILL catch it, gloved hand outstretched while one foot remains on the base.   She will catch the rocket launched to her by her twin, that is, when she’s not pitching, which is her second position.  So yes, his other sister can throw, too.  She can throw strikes, sending multiple batters back to the dug out — to sit down.

And softball is only one of the four sports the girls play.

So the statement, “You can’t throw” has no basis in fact.  It is a stereotype, just like it is a stereotype that black kids rap happy about going back to school in their hip-hop style.

In response to my daughter correcting him, my son, incredibly, said,

Him:  “[Softball] is not a real sport.

Her:  “What???  Why??? ”

Him:  “First of all, what gender plays it?” 

Her:   “What does that matter?”

Him:  “Oh, it matters.”

Suddenly, I was not quite as proud of him.   I guess his sense of social justice, his sensitivity about the proliferation of stupid stereotypes,  does not extend beyond the black thing.

That says a lot.

In the end, he did register a complaint on the Kmart site.   He has not, however, apologized to his sister.

By the way, I’m divorced.   My son is the only dude that lives here.  Despite all of his academic abilities you’d think he’d be smarter than this.

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Sexual Enhancement Drug Ads: What’s Up With Black Radio?

Radio Raheem from "Do the Right Thing"

Radio Raheem from “Do the Right Thing”

Sometimes I want to listen to some R&B.  Classic or recent.   Sometimes I want to listen to a morning Radio Show for “black” audiences.    The problem is I can’t get more than a few minutes in without hearing a commercial for some kind of sexual enhancement drug.

One has to wonder . . . are middle-aged black men having trouble in the bedroom?

Or is the hyper-sexualization of black people a money-maker for drug companies?  And is that because black people are buying these products more that others?   (See the first question — I mean, is there a problem in the black bedroom?)

Maybe it’s just demographics.   I’m not listening to hip-hop, so perhaps they assume that the audience consists of some men over 40 years old.  Still, the commercials aren’t just for men who may be experiencing erectile dysfunction.  They also claim to help a man satisfy a woman with his “gifts” and make no mention of any impairment to be corrected.   It’s just about the sex.

I listen to a lot of different types of music and I rarely hear these ads on classical radio (where presumably the audience is over 40 years old), or country radio or soft rock or oldies (insert your own joke) or even jazz (the land of old black guys).

No, it’s R&B, the music of love.


And annoying.   It’s embarrassing to listen to “black radio” with my kids.  I have to change the station, even in the daytime.    It’s a shame, really.   I’m not going to play a soundtrack of sex ads to swirl around my kids’ heads as they get ready for school in the morning.

I don’t want my kids to think that all black people think about is sex.

And conversely,  I don’t want black people to be sold goods about sex (while other stations sell goods and services that enhance other areas of life).

Targeted radio advertising, tailored to the likely audience.  I get it.  But at some point it teaches the audience what’s important or expected of them, especially if the audience hears it between every song.  Sadly, when it’s not the sex drug ads on black radio, it’s credit repair, bankruptcy, and attorney commercials.   I guess we’re broke, but we’re still “doing it,” and we need to do it better, longer and BIGGER!

The national radio shows do a good job of providing resources for black people in jobs, education and news.   But then they go to break and black people are bombarded with talk about satisfying, nay, mind-blowing sex.  I complained once and was told that the national shows have no idea what their local markets are playing.

I think they should.

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Back to School, Forced Facebooking

Disney's High School Musical

Disney’s High School Musical

It’s a difficult time of year for me, as a parent of teens.   Some of my children have horrible study habits that I battle all the time.  I fight with the kids, but I’m also fighting with the school sponsored “norm.”   The high school principal and the teachers advise us, as parents, to make sure the teens get sufficient sleep by limiting use of electronic devices, especially at night.  Then the teachers  post all assignments online.  Well, that’s convenient, I get that.   They also create assignments that require Internet access, which again, is convenient — gone are the days of having to go to the library.   It also makes it impossible to turn off WiFi to get one kid to read or go to sleep (or as punishment) if another kid is  doing homework online.   It also directs — actually, trains kids to go online before they  start anything.

And guess what’s on the computer?

Hint:  It starts with an “F”  — Facebook.


One might argue,  kids don’t have to be on or open Facebook, right?


Schools allow and even encourage student groups, clubs,  and teams to communicate via Facebook, and only Facebook.  Well, again, that’s convenient, right?    Students can create a group and post events, pictures and let everybody know what’s going on.   In other words, there’s no need to set up a pesky website or use the school website or go through the arduous task of sending an email.  Why do that when . . .

“We’ll just post it on Facebook!”

Consequently,  when a sports team has a pasta dinner, the time, location and menu are posted on Facebook, and Facebook only.   And it’s not just Facebook, folks.   One coach said that he is tired of collecting emails of players because the kids change their email addresses so often.  Consequently, he’s taken to using Twitter to advise players of information.  He uses Twitter to advise under-aged girls of  school team information.  Twitter — the land of  body cavity talk among strangers.

So, basically, a student has to have both a Facebook and a Twitter account or risk not being informed of an event.

The school does a lovely job of talking about bullying and cyber-bullying.   But they are doing a lousy job of teaching children that they can, in fact, opt out of online social networking, especially during the school year.   Instead, they encourage it by allowing student leaders and coaches and teachers to use pre-existing public social networking sites as their only form of communication.   They assume that the kids are already on these sites, even when some are not, and have only just reached the legal age to join.

Then the children walk into school and are told they have to be on Facebook to know what’s going on — or they will miss it!   Then suddenly I’m the bad guy by saying that no, you don’t have to have a personal Facebook page in order to play Volleyball for your school.

But I’m not the bad guy, I’m just wrong.  Students must create a Facebook page to see their team’s posts.   How many teens can create a Facebook page and not get sucked into the whole Facebook experience?   How  many kids will create a Twitter account and only follow their coach?    

C’mon school  –you’re making my kid drink the Kool-Aid when what she really needs is a good night’s sleep without any reference to anyone’s  “relationship status.”

It’s like having an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at a bar, except, unlike at AA, High School students use last names and post pictures of — everything.

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Summer Reading, The Minimum Requirements

Harry Potter's Hermione Granger, an excellent student.

Harry Potter’s Hermione Granger, an excellent student.

As my children peruse the Summer Reading list I notice the difference between the Honors classes and the next level down, College Prep.  An overwhelming majority of the children from my kids’ school go to four year colleges, so it’s not a a matter of college bound versus non-college bound education, but the distinction in the assignments leaves a chasm.

For example, the Honors students must read two particular books.  The College Prep classes must only read one of them.

Reading almost anything over the Summer is good, though I understand why certain books should be required.  But let’s look at it from a kid’s point of view.  My daughter, for example, only sees this:

“So I only have to read one book, right?”

That’s it.  She’s read other books over the Summer for pleasure, but she sees no reason to consider reading anything on the school’s  list of recommended reads because, as it says in black and white, she only is required to read one book.  When I suggested that she could read another book on the list, her response was, “No, that’s for Honors class.”

“You could still read it,”  I suggested.

“No, that’s for Honors class.”

Well, there you go.

The result is that certain books are viewed by the college prep students as only for the Honors kids — even though all the kids are preparing for college.

Another result is that the “Honors” students read more, which helps them — more.   It doesn’t sit right with me.

Yet another result is that non-Honors students are discouraged not only from reading more than one book, but from being an Honors student at all.   To some kids, the difference in the requirements leads to the opinion,

“Why would I want to be in Honors?  They have to do more work.”

Wouldn’t it make sense to require either the same books or the same number of books from the recommended list?

Instead, the requirement  teaches my child to do the bare minimum, which, for her,  is just one book.

It just looks bad, Honors Students: two books, Everybody else: one book.   My kid is perfectly capable of reading two books assigned to her.  You don’t have to be in Honors to do that.

It should be two, two books for everyone, at least.

As a parent I encourage and reward reading and other academic work, but as a parent of a teen, I could use some help.  Somebody other than me needs to tell her.  If they had told her to read two books from a recommended list, I guarantee she would have done it.

Oh well, she might have liked Life of Pi.  Too bad she may never know.

Life of Pi

Life of Pi

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How Not To Apply For A Job


I was making one of my many trips to the paint store while I was working on one of my many home improvement projects.   I walked in the store and two men behind the counter were cracking up.   They had to struggle to pull themselves together to greet me.

I had to ask, “What’s so funny?”

One of the men apologized for his laughter and  explained that a man had just come into the store, asked for the manager, and said, simply,

“I hear you’re hiring and shit.”  

I joined in the laughter, after I confirmed what they said actually happened.

“Seriously?”  I asked.

“I swear to God,”  or some equivalent, was the answer.

It was funny, but it was also very sad.   How is it that a grown man does not know how to greet people properly, how to present himself to make a serious job inquiry?

More importantly, how would anyone who hasn’t been taught this learn?

I learned from my parents.  I was told to dress nicely and introduce myself and ask for an application and be ready with my information.   Clearly this man didn’t know or didn’t care.  He’ll be passed up for most jobs, except for maybe labor jobs that do not require any contact with the public.    But what’s even sadder is that he probably doesn’t even know why.

I wonder if he even knew that he’d added “and shit” to a sentence that didn’t need it?  Perhaps not.

This is why I don’t allow my children to swear in front of me.  I’m not a prude, it’s not a religious thing.  It’s so that they have had practice controlling their manner of speaking.  Like it or not (and contrary to Reality TV competition shows), there are  situations when we have to speak in a certain way or risk being eliminated from serious consideration.   Do I expect my children to never utter a bad word?   C’mon, seriously?  No, of course not.    But I do expect that they will be able to get through a job interview, a meeting, class, a debate while speaking properly and respectfully, and in a way that will not trigger laughter or pity?   Absolutely.  Can I get a Hell Yeah?  heh heh heh   (Oh the irony, I could have used the f-bomb but chose not to.)

I hope that  somehow, somewhere, someone tells the paint store “prospective employee”  how to inquire about a job,  or at the very least that he shouldn’t say, “I hear you’re hiring and shit.”   The dude was looking for work.  That’s a good thing, but he needs to be ready.

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So You Want My Facebook Password?

Reportedly, some Employers are asking prospective employees for Facebook passwords.  Not smart, and I’ll tell you why.

Remember the critically acclaimed, wildly popular,  academy award-winning and thoroughly enjoyable tear-jerker movie “Philadelphia” ?

“Philadelphia” is about Andrew Beckett,  a gay lawyer suffering from AIDS who was fired from his job at a white shoe law firm.   He brought suit, alleging that he was sabotaged and then terminated because of his illness.  The attorney, Andy, played impeccably by Tom Hanks, had not made his sexual orientation or illness public, and took great strides to hide the  symptoms of his disease, even using make-up to try  (unsuccessfully) to cover the tell-tale lesions on his face.

At a critical scene in the movie, just after the named partner at the law firm is served with papers of the lawsuit, he declares war on Andy. The head honcho countered a suggestion by another partner that they just settle it out by exclaiming,  “Andy brought  AIDS into our offices.”   In response to the suggestion  that a jury might decide that Andy has a case, Wheeler protests that “[Andy] was fired for incompetence, not because he has AIDS.“  Then he  accusingly asks his partner,

You didn’t know he was sick, did you, Bob?”

Holy shit! Did you, Bob?” added another lawyer.

Reluctantly, and non-convincingly, Bob responded, “No. . .  no, not — not really.”

The Corporate Defense Team, from Philadelphia.

Yeah, the employer knew.  Andy’s attorney proved it at trial despite the venerable  defense team’s  arguments that Andrew was successful in his deception.

Does it matter whether they knew?   Absolutely.

Ahh, because having proof that the employer knew is money in the bank for the victim, albeit in escrow.  Employers aren’t allowed to ask  religion, former drug addiction, association or membership in an ethnic group, pregnancy or plans to marry or have children, etc.   Not knowing protects the employer from being accused of wrongfully acting on the knowledge and it protects the employee from being discriminated against on these personal, not-job related,  characteristics.

Employers asking for access to Facebook pages designated as private gets them the answers to all those questions they aren’t allowed to ask directly.  And it makes one less thing an employee has to prove in a discrimination case.   All the employee would have to do is say, “Yeah,the employer  knew because they asked for my Facebook login  information and it’s all right there on my profile, with posts from all my gay, Jewish, Muslim, or drug addicted friends, plus  my post that I’m five days late.  They knew I have [insert condition here] and that’s why I didn’t get the job or why I was forced to work in the basement, wearing a mask.”

Just like in the movie Philadelphia many a case is won or lost based on that little fact – Did the employer even know?   This is why smart employers, or actually law-abiding employers, don’t ask about these things.  (There are some jobs that require a more thorough background check, but most do not.)

So, those  employers out there asking interviewees for Facebook passwords are, in my humble opinion, idiots.  They are inviting arguments like, “Oh I was a wonderful candidate until you saw on my Facebook profile that my husband is black or that my partner is HIV positive, or that I don’t believe in God,  or  I want to have children, or that I attend AA meetings even though I’m 689 days sober.”

Employers just shouldn’t ask for Facebook passwords.   It’s bad business.  If they do, I’d love to hear and potential Employee respond with,

Seriously?” while fumbling, looking for paper upon which to write the password,  and adding,  “I have a lot of stuff on there about my faith and some things I’ve been dealing with.

While writing down the password the potential employee could add,

There’s no way you can look at it without seeing all that stuff, that’s why I keep it my page private.  Some people are funny about . . .  some things . . .  but I need to be able to share the matters that are important to me with people who are important to me, even if they are aren’t important to everybody.  You understand.

Then, he/she can reach across the desk, holding  out the paper with the password,  look the interviewer straight in the eyes and state,

I really believe I’m the best candidate for this job and I’m looking forward to becoming a member of the team here.   I’m just really surprised that you want to know . . . so much.”  And, after a pause,   “But here, if you really need to know . . .


Humph. Potential employers asking for Facebook passwords — that’s  just crazy talk.  Employers who do this are —well, just  crazy.  But you know who’s not crazy?  The employee who receives the request.   The employer just handed him/her  job security — or a nice settlement for discriminatory failure to hire.

So let’s all  pad our Facebook profile with information that shows our religion, marital, parental, disability, pregnancy status, along with our  ethnic background and those of our loved ones.  Put all your stuff out there — oh wait a minute, it’s Facebook  — you already have all your business right there in blue and white! If the employer makes you share it  and if you get treated like crap because of it (or even arguably because of it)  and you  sue them, well — they had it coming.

The Cell Block Tango, from the movie Chicago

The Cell Block Tango, from the movie Chicago

Or, perhaps,  just link this post to your wall and allow access, baby!    Ha!


And by the way, none of the above should be construed as legal advice.  . . .  I’m just sayin’ . . .

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